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Alfred Noyes

On the Downs

Wide-eyed our childhood roamed the world

Knee-deep in blowing grass,

And watched the white clouds crisply curled

Above the mountain-pass,

And lay among the purple thyme

And from its fragrance caught

Strange hints from some elusive clime

Beyond the bounds of thought.

Glimpses of fair forgotten things

Beyond the gates of birth,

Half-caught from far off ancient springs

In heaven, and half of earth;

And coloured like a fairy-tale

And whispering evermore

Half memories from the half-fenced pale

Of lives we lived before.

Here, weary of the roaring town

A-while may I return

And while the west wind roams the down

Lie still, lie still and learn:

Here are green leagues of murmuring wheat

With blue skies overhead,

And, all around, the winds are sweet

With May-bloom, white and red.

And, to and fro, the bee still hums

His low unchanging song,

And the same rustling whisper comes

As through the ages long:

Through all the thousands of the years

That same sweet rumour flows,

With dreaming skies and gleaming tears

And kisses and the rose.

Once more the children throng the lanes,

Themselves like flowers, to weave

Their garlands and their daisy-chains

And listen and believe

The tale of Once-upon-a-time, 

And hear the Long-ago 

And Happy-ever-after  chime

Because it must be so.

And by those thousands of the years

It is, though scarce we see,

Dazed with the rainbows of our tears,

Their steadfast unity,

It is, or life's disjointed schemes,

These stones, these ferns unfurled

With such deep care—a madman's dreams

Were wisdom to this world!

Dust into dust! Lie still and learn,

Hear how the ages sing

The solemn joy of our return

To that which makes the Spring:

Even as we came, with childhood's trust,

Wide-eyed we go, to Thee

Who holdest in Thy sacred dust

The heavenly Springs to be.